Characters

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Last Updated on May 18, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 861

Karon continues developing many characters that she created in At Home in Mitford, including Father Tim, Cynthia, Dooley, and Miss Sadie. She adds Buck Leeper and Meg Patrick and expands the role of Edith Mallory.

Father Tim is a sixty-three-year-old bachelor, the rector of Our Lord's Chapel. A diabetic, he...

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Karon continues developing many characters that she created in At Home in Mitford, including Father Tim, Cynthia, Dooley, and Miss Sadie. She adds Buck Leeper and Meg Patrick and expands the role of Edith Mallory.

Father Tim is a sixty-three-year-old bachelor, the rector of Our Lord's Chapel. A diabetic, he diets and exercises regularly, so he is physically stronger than he was in the first novel, At Home in Mitford. His spiritual life is not as evident in A Light in the Window as it was in the first book. He is more involved with secular concerns. Father Tim discovers that he must not only make a commitment to God, but also to people he loves.
Cynthia Coppersmith is a charming woman, pretty, petite, fun-loving, affectionate. Father Tim's family and friends urge him to marry her, but he procrastinates and nearly loses her. She has a successful career writing and illustrating children's books, rather like Beatrix Potter, the originator of The Tales of Peter Rabbit. The local librarian tells Father Tim that Cynthia is the "Proust of children's literature." While she is working in New York, Father Tim reads her Violet, the Cat series and realizes what a talented woman she is.

In this second book, Dooley is a young teenager. He sings solos with the youth choir, plays football, "hangs out" with the guys, and thinks about becoming a veterinarian. Always the realist, Dooley's comments about Edith Mallory and Meg Patrick are perceptive and humorous. Because Father Tim gives Dooley more freedom than the boy can handle, Dooley smokes cigarettes on the school grounds and gets expelled. The principal demands that Father Tim exert more discipline than a scolding, which he ignores. Dooley and Tommy trespass on the Hope House construction site, and Tommy is badly injured. Father Tim discovers that parents have to do more than pray that their children will learn right from wrong.

Karon stereotypes Dooley's public school principal as a rigid martinet with little knowledge of how to deal with adolescents or their parents. She also stereotypes Dooley's tutor Miss Appleshaw as stern and inflexible. For example, in contrast to Miss Appleshaw's methods, Father Tim's casual read-aloud-and-discuss approach to the English language and the classics is better. Dooley and Father Tim plan to serve Miss Appleshaw a meal of "rat tonsils, snake bellies, and frog puke" before they fire her. Relieved of the onerous Miss Appleshaw, Dooley suddenly "gets smart." Sharing his lessons with Father Tim opens Dooley's mind to new ideas. His favorite public school teachers give him letters of recommendation, and he selects a private school for his future education.

Miss Sadie, benefactress of Hope House, seldom gets involved in Mitford social life. However, when she discovers that Olivia is her niece, she insists on having Olivia and Doctor Hoppy's wedding reception in the ballroom at Ferngate. Several episodes focus on Miss Sadie: the antique hat show at Olivia's, her stories about the fresco on the ceiling of the ballroom and falling into the well. Her generous offer to educate Dooley in private school is based on an Oliver Wendell Holmes's quotation: "A mind stretched to a new idea never returns to its original shape." She thinks Dooley needs to have his mind stretched.

Buck Leeper smashes through the novel like a bulldozer out of control. Ron Malcolm assures Father Tim that Buck is the best construction foreman in the business, but he offends townspeople in Mitford with his rude, belligerent attitude. Buck confesses to Father Tim that his guilt over the death of a younger brother and consequent rejection by his father is the reason for his hostility and anger. Father Tim feels empathy for Leeper because he, too, had a similar father. By the end of the book, Leeper's personality begins to mellow.

Edith Mallory and Meg Patrick remain Father Tim's antagonists to the end of the novel. Meg Patrick pretends she is Father Tim's cousin from Sligo, Ireland, and moves into the rectory. Barnabas and Dooley suspect that she is a fake from the beginning, but Father Tim thinks she is a bona fide Kavanaugh because she can recite the family tree. Dooley and Father Tim seldom see her during the daytime. Dressed in a stained pink chenille bathrobe, she slinks in and out of her room "like a cockroach" and eats all of the leftovers in the refrigerator. She is writing a book, which turns out to be a trashy novel.

An immaculate housekeeper, Puny enters Meg's room to clean it after she discovers the missing key. Shocked by the mess, Puny shows Father Tim the garbage and dirty clothes that have accumulated in the guest room. He finds his mother's stolen amethyst brooch on Meg's dresser, and he asks her to leave.

Some of Karon's secondary characters like Percy Mosely and Mayor Cunningham gain status in A Light in the Window because their actions affect the plot. Other characters who were important in At Home in Mitford (1994; see separate entry), like Hal and Marge Owen, Olivia and Doctor "Hoppy," Homeless Hobbes, Miss Rose and Uncle Billy, Andrew Gregory, Absalom Greer, and even Emma and Puny fade into the background.

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